Cost of Regulations Impacts South Dakota Landowners
By Senator Mike Rounds
As Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Superfund, Waste Management and Regulatory Oversight, my job is to oversee federal agencies that promulgate some of the most egregious and harmful regulations. With more than 1 million regulations on the books today and a president who has issued more regulations than any previous administration, our subcommittee has highlighted the impact these regulations are having on everyday Americans.
Recently, I chaired a field hearing in Rapid City which focused on how regulations coming from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) are affecting private citizens’ ability to utilize and develop their land. During the hearing, we found that these agencies are not necessarily communicating with the public when they decide to issue new regulations, nor are they taking public comments into account when drafting new rules.
At our field hearing, we heard from several witnesses about the difficulty and confusion landowners may face in complying with the Waters of the U.S. rule (WOTUS). In 2015, the EPA moved forward with finalizing WOTUS, which would greatly expand the definition of a ‘navigable waterway’ under the Clean Water Act, giving the EPA unprecedented authority over significant inland water bodies not currently subject to EPA jurisdiction. This rule creates significant hurdles to normal agricultural operations, yet the EPA appears to have ignored concerns of farmers, ranchers, agriculture groups, the Small Business Administration and numerous state governors and attorneys general who oppose it.
Although the Sixth Circuit Court issued a nationwide stay on the rule, we have heard evidence that the U.S. Army Corps may be moving forward with implementing WOTUS. However, the U.S. court system should not be the primary backstop against overly-burdensome rules. If the EPA works more closely with landowners, states and agriculture groups throughout the rulemaking process, the end result would be better regulations that minimize the impact and costs on private landowners and American businesses.
We also heard from FWS on the Endangered Species Act during our field hearing. There are currently 1,226 species listed as endangered and 367 listed as threatened in the United States under the Endangered Species Act, and approximately half of the listed species have 80 percent of their habitat on private land. While the FWS attempts to work with landowners to encourage voluntary species management and conservation, the Endangered Species Act continues to impede landowners’ abilities to utilize and develop their land by imposing significant restrictions on what landowners can do on their own property.
Make no mistake, I understand that rules and regulations have a place in society. My concern lies with overbearing, burdensome rules and regulations that are promulgated by unelected bureaucrats who fail to fully consider local impacts before enacting rules. Each year, Americans pay nearly $1.9 trillion to comply with regulations, far more than the $1.4 trillion we pay in individual income taxes on April 15. As we heard during the field hearing in Rapid City, the high cost of complying with these regulations is hurting our economy and limiting the productivity of our farmers, ranchers and landowners who make a living on the land. I will continue working in my oversight capacity to identify and mitigate the negative effects of overly-burdensome regulations on our ag community.